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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

So, what type of hermit am I?  I am a fearful hermit or rather; I have the natural tendency to be one.  I realized this about myself early into my walk with God as I sorted through deep scars from my past.  I had to admit that, through a series of harmful relationships in my formative years, it was hard to believe God desired me and nearly impossible to think that I was likeable to people.  I had to wage war on the lie that I was merely tolerable, a lie that many people believe.

By God’s grace and incredible love, I was able to break the chains of that binding mindset.  He also blessed me with a few incredible people to really cement this.  Unfortunately, through a semi-recent loving confrontation by a dear friend, I have been forced to realize that this mindset still follows me around and can, when ignored, affect me even now.

To be humbled by the truth that I am still affected by my past to admit present damage.  To admit present damage is to recognize pain.  To recognize pain, quite frankly, sucks.  Now, I’m certain that His power and love are limitless.  I do, however, believe that tendencies we once held can resurge for a variety of reasons (though never because He’s failed us.)  Even knowing that, however, admitting that this lie still stalks me is a bitter pill to swallow.

So, what am I going to do with this renewed awareness?  What can I do to break my eremitic tendencies?  I wish I had some beautifully-written advice drenched in profundity, but I don’t.  Honestly, there are two straight-forward actions that I’ve found effective.  Theoretically, they should work for all aforementioned types of “faith hermits” (though it’s just a theory.)  Here they are:

  1.  Surrender.  Ask God to strengthen your heart and consistently look to Him for your identity.  You can’t be in any sort of healthy relationship if your senses of identity and worth aren’t grounded in Him.  (Psalm 139, Ephesians 1:4-5, 1 John 3:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:5)
  2. Put yourself out there and let people prove you wrong.  Whether it’s a love of comfort, pride, or fear, we need to give people the option to prove that they are worthy of our trust and that God honors and protects life-giving relationships.  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) Now, not everyone is worthy of our most intimate details nor is it healthy to divulge our life stories to everyone.  This only applies to those who are trustworthy and equally committed to authenticity.

Personally, I find the second action to be the most difficult.  I find strength in the fact that God designed us to be in community and therefore He’s ultimately in control.  He knows we need other people and other people need us.  This truth takes the action from highly difficult to incredibly rewarding, to the point that it gets easier every time I’m transparent.  It’s quite wonderful and even kind of addictive.

Until next time…

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A mystifying blanket of fog had descended upon the entire metropolitan area that night, coating everything in a dark grey veil.  Like a phantom gliding down from a belfry, it drifted in with unnatural speed and mystery.  To call it dense would be a vast understatement.  Impenetrable would be more appropriate, though still not entirely accurate.

Traffic was non-existent.  Streets were virtually abandoned, not that one could see the form or figure of any living creature amid the earthbound clouds.  Even streetlights, whose sworn duty was to illuminate, could barely utter a whisper of a yellowish glow.  Homes emitted such little light that they appeared more like old pieces in a Holiday Village collection on the cusp of burning out for good.  The typical buzzes of Suburbia were nearly completely silenced.  Only the whir of such things as power lines and air filtration systems seemed audible, though noticeably stifled.  The town was draped in forced peacefulness which was intriguing and eerie all at once.

Somehow, I found myself called to leave the house for the sake of a mission, humble as it was.  A friend was trapped at her office due to the conditions and subsequent lack of visibility.  Luckily, this friend worked within walking distance of my residence, charging me and a walking companion with the task of rescuing her and welcoming her into a more hospitable setting.  I can’t recall why it was our duty; I only know that it was.  So, we set forth with flashlights in hand to retrieve her.

As we reached the top of a hill, exhausted by the weight of the damp air, we stopped to breathe at a four-way intersection.  It was bizarre to see this typically chaotic point of traffic as vacant.  Normally filled with impatient drivers, it was often difficult to cross on foot.  As we resumed our journey, we found ourselves walking with conditioned caution despite the obvious lack of threat.

Proceeding through the crosswalk, I looked to the right and saw a faint figure in the distance.  How peculiar.  It resembled an animal of some sort.  A donkey.  Was this a fog-induced mirage?  No.  There really was a small beast of burden standing calmly across the street.  It seemed to be positioned towards me, as if to specifically attract my attention.  It probably goes without saying, but this was highly atypical.  This was a busy intersection in a highly-populated suburb of a large city.  Donkeys, or any animal categorized as livestock, were not native to the locale.

For whatever reason, as I stared at the creature, the story of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on such an animal came to mind.  So humble, yet worthy of great reverence. A seemingly random thought, I admit, but considerably normal given the nature of the overall situation.  Eyes fixed on what stood before me, I found myself wishing that Jesus was the rider of this particular donkey.  No doubt, this came purely from a deeply-rooted and ever-present desire to see him face to face.  The thought had barely concluded with a mental period when I saw a figure appear on the animal’s back.  My eyes began to widen as the figure came into focus.  It couldn’t be.  It was.  The figure of Jesus Christ, remarkably clear despite the darkening power of the iron-colored mist.

Before taking the time to analyze the situation, my mouth had involuntarily cried his name and my feet, without my consent, began to carry me swiftly towards him.  With tear-filled eyes, I ran.  The mirage thought crossed my mind again, but my heart was too drenched in the hope that it was real to entertain any skepticism which is so often a part of my thought processes.  The risk of looking foolish was insignificant.  It was more worth it to find out that he was there than to worry about what would happen if he wasn’t.  So I ran..

I reached him and my arms thoughtlessly and immediately found their way around his neck.  Heart and eyes flooded with indescribable love, gratitude, humility, and immeasurable joy, I held on tightly with no intention of letting go.  Something tells me that he initiated the embrace, though my speed of reciprocation blurred those lines.  It was a moment of perfection, peace, and incalculable bliss.  I was overwhelmed by the supernatural.  Enveloped by the sacred.

After what seems like hours and seconds at the same time, another set of arms joined the embrace.  My friend was but a step behind me, unable to contain what swelled within her at the sight of the Savior.  This only increased the inexpressible joy of the situation.  The fog was forgotten.  Any negativity that had existed prior to these moments had vanished.  Only love existed.

Not long after this had taken place, I woke up.  Yes, dear friends, this was a dream and a tremendously beautiful one at that.  I have to admit that I was hesitant to write this, risking the loss of the dream’s sacredness in the scrutinizing light of this worldly reality.  It’s like trying to describe the majesty of The Himalayas to someone who’s never been.  Or trying to share the ecstasy felt by the powerful presence of God in a night of worship to an absent friend.  Try as the hearer may, there’s no way to fully share in the narrator’s experience.  Just the same, the human tongue cannot adequately describe my experience through this dream, at least not to the point that anyone could relive it with me.  Despite this, I decided the dream should be shared.  Something so truly lovely should be written, even if it’s just for my sake.

I woke up from this aglow with a deepened love for the Lord.  I was so honored that God elected to reach out to me this way.  He always reaches out to me (and always will,) but this was certainly special.  It’s interesting to think that my roommate had prayed, before going to sleep, that God would speak to me in a dream.  This specific prayer isn’t a ritualistic one for her.  Something (or Someone) inspired her to pray this prayer.  That, in combination with the startling fact that I remember this dream so vividly, seems to allude to something greater.

The jury’s still out on the interpretation, and I patiently await the revelation, but I know it wasn’t just another random combination of the daily debris that enters my subconscious.  I know the fog is heavily symbolic, and I’m fairly confident that the donkey represents Jesus’ humility in pursuing me, but that’s all I’m able to understand for the moment.  I know there’s more to it.  Perhaps, when the full meaning is revealed to me, there will be a Part II to this post.  In the meantime, I pray that it is simply enjoyed as a beautiful story that represents a beautiful truth.  May you find increased excitement, hope, and fervor as you remember that God never ceases to passionately pursue us in increasingly creative ways.  May you always continue to revel in such loveliness.

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You know what I am great at avoiding and even better at screwing up?  Money matters.  Yes, I know…I just said the “m” word.  I recognize that this is nearly a swearword to many people, often inducing anger, depression, fits of panic, and even hives—sometimes simultaneously.  Though I can understand the desire to scream at the computer and flee from this post in arm-flailing terror, I’m asking you to give it a chance.  You see, I’ve had money on the mind for the past several weeks and I’m pretty sure God wants it that way.  I feel that He’s showing me that it’s completely impossible to have the intimate relationship He desires with us if we don’t pay more attention the contents of our bank accounts and coin purses.

“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”  Church-goers or not, most people have heard this phrase.  It’s more than just a phrase, though.  It’s a Bible verse, 1 Timothy 6:10 to be exact.   So what does it mean?  Simply put, I think it means that loving money leads to all types of problems.  Not just small, pebble in your shoe type problems, either.  I’m talking about the heavy types of problems more akin to a boulder over your head suspended only by mint-waxed dental floss.  I don’t think it applies just to money either.  I think it applies to all material things.

Does that mean we shouldn’t desire financial stability or want nice things?  Is it corrupt to like vacations, fashion, home décor, or restaurants?  I don’t think so.  Maybe I’m looking at it with too child-like a perspective, but the verse says that “the love of money” is a root of all kinds of evil.  “Like” is very different from love.  Ask any person with a commitment phobia and they’ll confirm that someone saying “I like you” is quite different from a spoken “I love you.”  That being said, I think there can often be a fine line between the harmful love of material things and the more innocent like of them.

In this case, I think love refers to worship.  Worship is defined as reverent honor paid to or adoring reverence or regard for something.  To worship something—truly worship—is to put something in the highest possible position of love, honor, respect, adoration, and devotion.  There is only One who is meant to be in that position in our lives, and that is God Himself.  When He is our object of affection and worship, peace, love, strength, patience, joy, etc. flow in and through our lives.  When we put anything else in that place meant for God alone, chaos ensues.

Think of a beautiful antique grandfather clock.  A clockmaker put his heart into it and carefully positioned each cog, spring, and vital part.  When the original design is respected, it runs beautifully.  If you decide to replace the original metal parts with lesser materials like Styrofoam, temporary and cheap, the clock is unable to function as it was originally designed.  This haphazard replacement will result in brokenness and, if left unchanged, the complete destruction of the clock.  Unfortunately, I have a lot of experience in replacing timeless, pure Goodness in my life with cheap, easily accessible things.  Amazingly enough, God never ceases to pursue me and jump back into His rightful place the moment I turn to Him.

Okay, though this seems to be something I will always be working on, I’ve known all of this for a while.  So what new perspective have my mental mandibles been chewing on?  It’s a misconception actually, that I only recently realized I’ve held.

During a very recent period of financial hardship, my mind was spinning with numbers and red currency symbols causing serious stress.  To put it plainly, I was freaking out and was losing control of my thought life to this very specific worry.  Through this, God spoke to me and basically told me that I needed to let go of my love of money.  At first, it seemed ridiculous.  I had no money to love.  As I thought about it further, I realized the truth in his rebuke.

I think we, as lower, working, or middle-class folks, tend to look up the socioeconomic ladder when we think of materialism.  Materialistic people are those obsessed with big houses, fancy cars, extravagant boats, and $2000 pairs of cashmere socks.  Not us though, we’re just trying to get by.  We think about money and things in the sense of lack and need.  I often obsess about the same types of things, though my big house is a nice apartment and my lavish socks are a six pack of Hanes.  I have been viewing it as “being concerned with needs” and my bankroll’s inability to meet those needs.  I’ve been trying to justify it, but the truth is this: obsession is obsession.  This is what I mean by the “Empty Pocket Idol.”  It’s a dangerous form of materialism (or love of money) that involves being obsessed with the lack of money, not the presence of it.  I don’t need to have funds to spend in order to be evaluating whether or not my heart is in my pocketbook

Now, I would love to tell you five fantastic steps to loosing the holds of the “Empty Pocket Idol” or his equally terrible brother, the “Full Wallet Idol.”  Here’s the thing though…I am not an expert or motivational speaker.  I am a work in progress, especially regarding this subject.  However, by the pursuit of God, I have been shown a couple solutions that I’ve actually been able to experience as life-changing.

  1. Keep yourself full of what—or rather Who—it’s supposed to be full of.  The way to do this is to turn your attention from your worries and desires for things to God.  Even trying to focus on materialism for the sake of fixing it, ultimately leads to obsessing over it once again.  The only way to truly fix a spiritual problem, as this is, is to focus on the Solution, not the details of the problem itself.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also.”  Matthew 6:21  In other words, what you focus on and cherish, will always take over the center of your being including your mind, will, and emotions.  Also, unlike the love of money, loving God is not unrequited.
  2. Practice generosity.  I know that I can’t be free from materialism’s hold until I actual pry open my tightly-closed purse and literally let it go.  I believe this is true for everyone.  It’s an act of faith.  For instance, you can tell me that you trust the train, but your faith in the locomotive will never transition from theoretical to authentic until you actually take a ride.  Plus, giving is a cyclical blessing.  God promises that if we give, as in the case of tithing (giving 10% of your take-home pay to Him,) He will bless us in ways we could never imagine.  See Malachi 3:10…it’s literally God promising immeasurable blessing to those who tithe.  This doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win the lottery or the HGTV Dream Home, but God promises to bless the generous.

I’m sure there are other things we can do to keep materialism at bay and the related idols in the dirt where they belong.  I’m still discovering these though.  I am delighted, though, that the God who holds all wisdom seems to have taken such an interest in me (as He does with ALL people.)  He is beautifully patient as I stumble my way through this on my way to experiencing the full life of He desires for all His children.  How truly marvelous.

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Greetings, blogging world.  I hope this finds you well.

This is a big day for me.  As I mentioned in my About Me page, I am a bit of a dreamer and aspirer.  One of my aspirations, is to become a writer.  This blog is a first step in that direction, a step that is long overdue.  You see, in order to write anything, one must have skill, of course, but also courage and belief in oneself.  If we are honest, I think many of us could agree that doubt and fear come a little more naturally as it certainly does to me.  Regarding writing, I’ve been resting in the familiarity of said doubt and fear, choosing not to take a chance…until now.

Though I have little desire to climb rocks, snowshoe in Antarctica, or whitewater raft, I actually have a rather adventurous heart.  My adventurous desires are for experiencing new places, meeting new people, and trying new things.  However, I often yield to fear, which is what I consider to be the greatest enemy of dreaming and adventurous undertakings.  As I’ve discovered, through a series of God-led wonderings, there have been two types of fear with particular influence in my life.  I found this understanding to be quite revolutionary and hopefully, you will too.  The fears I am most prone to are as follows:

1.  The Fear of Failure.  No one can argue that this is the most common.  Failure is an unavoidable possibility in any undertaking.  A  friend once sat on a swing and hilariously fell right through.  The swing failed to do what it appeared to promise.  There was no way to know that, at that very moment, the chain had reached its maximum rust capacity and would’ve come undone by the weight of a paperback book.  A silly example–maybe–but it rings true.  The possibility of failure is a ferociously daunting and all-too-often crippling reality that we all have to face when taking a first step towards something.

2.  The Fear of Relinquishing the Fantasy.  This may not seem related to fear, but it very much is.  It is quite related to the blanket fear of failure.  This was the hardest for me to conquer.  It’s something I’m still working on.  Since I was a young child, I’ve been a dreamer.  In the last quarter-century, I’ve dreamt of being a singer, illustration artist, ballerina, architect (the necessary math shot that one down,) English teacher, psychologist, and of course, a writer.  I’ve let my imagination run free and uninhibited within me about what it would look like to do these things.  These are the fantasies which can be based on  memory or pure imagination.

To actually try to pursue a dream or idea results in an unavoidable trade.  We are met at the gate leading to the first step with this proposition.  Going through the gate means giving up the fantasy we’ve cherished in exchange for reality.  What was once a perfect imagined scenario is now under the scrutiny of the light of reality.  Perfection is shattered.

For example, I love to sing.  I suppose I have some skill as my past would display with awards, successful auditions, etc.  However, this is all in the past.  I haven’t sung much in the last three years.  I’ve often thought of auditioning for the band at church but I’ve yet to do so.  Why?  Because I have a beautiful memory of how good I was which fuels a fantasy of how I could be.  To actually audition for the band would mean immediate surrender of my precious fantasy in exchange for the possibility of an unsuccessful audition.  That’s frightening to me!  After all, isn’t safer to be comforted by a perfect dream than it is to be confronted by reality?

So, I wonder, how do we conquer this?  What does it take to make the trade at the gate?  To be completely honest, this is something I’m still finding.  I can tell you that a form of gumption is most necessary, but it’s something more than this.  It takes faith.  Faith in yourself is often a vehicle which can only carry you so far, as I’ve found out.  Truthfully, it’s been my faith in God and His care, provision, and protection over every part of me (including the hopes for myself) that have driven me to make the exchange and open the gate.  This blog is my very first step towards writing.  I’m trusting in God to inspire me (it was He who first inspired me), believe in me, and make a way if He wants to.  It’s in His hands, not mine.  And that makes it tremendously easier to relinquish the fantasy in hopes of a more wonderful reality.

This concludes my very first blog entry.  Please check out my About Me and About the Blog pages and thanks a heap for stopping by!

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